Li-Cycle, the largest capacity lithium-ion battery recycling company in North America, has completed the first phase of what will become the continent’s first commercial lithium-ion battery recycling Hub.
Located in Eastman Business Park in Rochester, New York, the newly-completed facility is what the company refers to as a ‘Spoke,’ a facility which will produce a ‘black mass’ from spent lithium-ion batteries. This material will then be sent to a ‘Hub’ facility, also set to be located in Eastman Business Park and expected to be completed in 2022, which will be a wet chemistry/hydrometallurgical plant that will refine battery-grade materials from ‘black mass.’
The terms ‘Hub’ and ‘Spoke’ are used to differentiate the types of plants the company operates, with the commercial goal being that a handful of regional Spoke plants will produce ‘black mass’ for a regional Hub plant to then refine.
The company also has a Spoke facility in Kingston, Ontario, which will also supply the Hub with black mass.The new Rochester spoke has the capacity to process up to 5,000 tons of spent lithium-ion batteries per year, which brings Li-Cycle’s total recycling capacity to 10,000 tons/year through its two North American Spokes.
Li-Cycle also recently closed a Series C funding round, led by Moore Strategic Ventures, to fund development of its Rochester hub.
Beyond battery recycling
In April, Li-Cycle completed its first shipment of commercially recycled battery material, processed at the Kingston facility, marking a major step towards developing a North American battery recycling market. As of 2019, just 17.4% of e-waste, which includes lithium-ion battery components, was properly collected and recycled.
Li-Cycle claims that its recycling process enables recoveries of at least 95% of all materials found in lithium-ion batteries, compared to the industry norm of less than 50%.
However, for Li-Cycle, the opening of this Spoke and the future Hub plant are about more than just addressing the issue of e-waste, it’s about committing to sustainability across all operations and creating tangible, meaningful industry change and to reduce reliance on mined materials.
The spoke facilities produce no wastewater and no meaningful air emissions. All the water in the plant is recycled back through the plant.
Outside of environmental impact, the supply chain for battery components, especially cobalt, is dubious, with a Forbes article from this past January reporting that more than 60% of the world’s supply of cobalt is mined in the ‘copper belt’ of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where miners as young as six years old make as little as 81¢ per day.
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